Monday, January 29, 2007

"Send Him Back!!"

I am already anticipating the collective gasps of horror when you all read this, but you'd just have to know our family to "get it" that this had us all laughing until we thought we were going to pee our pants this morning. It may sound bad, but actually it is really, really good.

I crawled into Matthew's bed this morning to try and wake him up, and Joshie was crawling all over me as well. We were all giggling in that quiet, under the covers, morning sort of way when somehow the conversation turned to who loved who the most. With a grin on his face, Matthew said "You love Daddy and Joshie but you don't love me!", to which I replied in total jest " are going to make me cry!" as he continued to giggle.

Joshie then sat up, put his hands on his hips as only he can do and blurted out "Mommy, you need to send him back to the orphanage!!!!" and we all, Matthew included started our day off with the biggest laugh.

You are probably wondering why in the world I would think such a thing was funny, or positive in any way...well, Joshie finally understands that we would never do such a thing, he is secure enough to know that NO ONE is ever going back, NO WAY, NO HOW, and he feels safe enough now to joke about it.

Plus, I readily admit, we are a sick, twisted family and find humor in things no one else ever would.

So go ahead, flame me, we STILL think it is funny!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Men are from Mars, Boys are from ???

I had a real moment of self discovery recently about boys and loving them, parenting them, and nurturing them. I was talking with some friends, some who have grown daughters, and it became quickly apparent to me as it often has with others in the past, that they are clueless about boys and their special hearts.

Our society today has, in many ways, become a male-bashing society. In an effort to give women a boost up, as was truly necessary in years past, the pendulum has swung too far the other way and often we devalue men. We seldom see a strong, caring nurturing male role model in TV shows, instead they are depicted as bumbling, brainless buffoons. Gone are the days of the fathers of shows like Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons and in are the fathers of shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, or the "men" (God forbid) of Friends. Slowly, in our national collective consciousness, we have placed men in the category of "Slow, Dim-Witted, Insensitive Jerk", necessary only to handle the more physical tasks of our daily lives that would otherwise perplex us.

Why is this? Why aren't sons cherished as much as daughters? Why are there orphanages full of beautiful, smart, caring boys and families are willing to wait months, if not a year or more, for a referral of a baby girl?

It is interesting to note that those whom I have met who are parents of boys only...whether they are young are grown, sing their praises to high heavens. It is as if we parents of boys have a special secret that the "others" don't know about. Let's debunk some myths right here:

1) Boys Are Not Affectionate - To this I give an emphatic Bull Pucky! Both of our boys are extremely open, warm and physically affectionate. Matthew, even at 7 1/2 years old, loves nothing more than to crawl up on my lap or snuggle next to me while we are watching TV and he is the same with Dominick. Both boys love nothing more than to sleep in our bed between us as a special treat. Could it possibly be that some boys are not as affectionate as others because they are expected to be less affectionate, and therefore it is a self-fulfilling prophesy of sorts? We have loved on our boys as much as we would daughters if we had them, and frankly I can't imagine having a daughter being any more comforting or warm than what I have with Matthew and Joshua. Now, admittedly, Matthew is far more reserved about who he shares his hugs with, but I don't think there is a thing wrong with that...he is affectionate with those he feels closest with, who have "earned" it, so to speak. Josh is a cuddle-bug with many of his favorite people.

2) Boys Don't Express Themselves Or Their Love - Boys DO express themselves differently, just as men do. Why can't we women accept that and appreciate it? Although both my boys say "I love you" constantly, they also show thier love for me in different ways. Jumping up and doing a pretend karate chop on each other as they say "Don't worry mom, I'll protect you!!!"...well, that is them saying "I love you!" in thier language. One of them walking in the room to see what I am doing, and then leaving to return with a car or a toy and play on the bed behind me as I type, well I guess I have always interpretted that as "I love you and I want to be near you!". Sometimes I think people don't read boys well at all. If a boy comes up and wants to wrestle with you or show you his muscles, that is his way of showing that he cares! As for men, well...Dominick "tells" he that he loves me in a million different putting gas in my car or going out and warming it up for me in the morning, by doing the dishes while I am working on something else, by giving me that extra hour of peace and quiet on a lazy weekend morning. That all is Manspeak for "I love you!".

3) Men/Boys Are Not "Deep" - Oh this one is such hogwash it isn't even funny! Between Matthew and Joshua in the last couple of years I have had coversations on the following topics: Sadaam versus Hitler, Kim Jong Il and nuclear destruction of the world, birth moms and abandonment, what does love really feel like inside your heart, what are the reasons for some kids being bullies, how are babies made, what is courage, what if we lived in Kazakhstan and mommy was Kazakh, why God is like electricity, why do people take drugs, what does it mean to be in a family and what will we have to teach "T", having birth parents means you also have birth grandparents somewhere too, and so many, many more things. I can't even begin to share all that we have talked about that would be considered deep for girls or boys at this age. But as a parent, you can't just wait for subjects to come up, you have to introduce them, and once that is done it is amazing where it will lead and the conversations that are then started later on by them! Boys aren't deep? Ha! At this stage I am just sincerely glad I don't have girls if they are deeper than this, and we haven't even hit the teenage years yet...yikes!

4) Boys Are Thoughtless - NOT! That is why my refrigerator is plastered with artwork by Josh that has "To my mommy" written on it by his teacher that she informed me he insisted HAD to be written on there. That is why as I struggled to carry things in from my car today Matthew grabbed some 2 liters of pop and said "Mommy, I can get this for you!". That is why when I had had a bad start to my day the other day Joshie put his arm around my shoulder and said "Want to start your day over again Mommy?". That is why Matthew kissed the photo of his brother-to-be in the photo album we are making for him...because boys ARE thoughtful!

Boys CAN BE loud, rough and tumble, crass, less perceptive at times of the subtle nuances of behavior. And I don't know what it is about boys that even in infancy they find thier own flatulance hilarious. But there is such warmth and sensitivity there that always blows me away that others don't see. As a Cub Scout Leader I work with boys all the time, and I can honestly say I adore them all. Each one has his own unique personality, they have so much energy that I can't keep up with them if I try! But they all have their tender sides too, if someone just takes a moment to look inside rather than dismiss them as "just boys". They express their emotions with action, not words. If you key in on that, you can often get the words to come out.

I have been accused, believe it or not in all seriousness, of wanting all boys because I just want to be the Queen of the House (yea, with my personality that is a total joke!). Someone once said a couple of years ago in half-seriousness that I didn't want competition in my house being the only girl. I couldn't believe that! While I admit that my "men" all treat me kindly and with great love and respect, that has nothing to do with it. It is because, I believe, I see something in boys that others don't, and I can bring something out in them that others can't. I am a firm believer that "boys will be boys" to some extent, but "boys will be boys" is often an excuse to allow parents to treat them differently, thus sometimes encouraging the very behavior they claim not to understand! If you tell a boy not to cry and to buck up and be a man, then he will learn to swallow his emotions. If you say that boys are always rough with each so you allow them to beat each other up, then you will not end up with a boy who has a tender, gentle side...he will live up to the level of expectation you place on him. If you say that boys do not do well in school, well for sure they won't...why should they, you already TOLD them they would fail!

So many people can not see below the veneer that is a boys personality. They see a loud, energetic, less-than-couth child and instantly categorize them. It takes time and effort to lift off that veneer a bit and see what he is made of underneath. For as often as I hear people (usually women) claim that men are uncomplicated, they sure can't seem to figure them out! I am not setting myself up as an expert either, all I am saying is that I care enough to move past the myths and stereotypes to try and figure them out.

So if Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus...where are Boys from? I believe they are from our hearts.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Faith and Adoption

I have been pondering this post for a very long time, mulling my thoughts over in my head, trying to find the way to put certain thoughts into words. I have struggled mightily, and as usual I am sure nothing will come out sounding like what I really wanted to say. I wish I was a much better writer and was more skilled at getting my message across, but alas I am only a housewife and not Thoreau or Emerson, but since you are not paying for this like you would a magazine or a book, I guess you get what you pay for! Hahahaha!

Faith and adoption go hand and hand, believe it or not. I seldom find an adoptive parent who doesn't somehow feel guided by their God or Higher Power to their children. Those who are cynics might somehow explain that as one goes through the adoption process, you are forced to relinquish so much control and you hate feeling helpless, so it is easier to attribute the events to God rather than accept that it is simply up to others and everything happens randomly.

Then there are those who are not cynics by nature, who don't buy the "randomness" argument, who believe that God...whatever form He/She takes for them...has a plan that they must follow. Many who adopt borrow from China the belief in the Red Thread, "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.". Whether a Red Thread, God or Randomness, all actually a require a Faith in something, don't they?

I will admit here to not formally participating in organized religion for many, many years. For too long, sadly. But actually, this departure from organized religion had nothing at all to do with my faith in my God. So often it felt like it was all about exactly that, religion, rather than embarking on my own unique faith journey and seeing where that would lead me. I have felt God in my life since I was a young child with no religious training. I don't know why or how, but I did, and it had nothing to do with going to church. I feel it was God calling me. He has directed all of the most important decisions in my life, led me to the most important people I would have in my life, and it has only been when I have turned my back on Him, thinking that I knew more, that I have regretted my decisions. More importantly, when I have been in the periods of my life when I have felt closest to Him, or at least in pursuit of my relationship with Him, I have been the happiest.

That does not mean that my faith has been unthinking or gone unquestioned by myself, and it also does not mean that I have not at times done or said things that I have regretted or would be categorized as "Unchristian". There have been long stretches of my life when I have ignored Him, or relegated Him to some back room in the recesses of my brain. Yet somehow, He always calls me back, sometimes in big ways and sometimes in very subtle, quiet, nuanced ways. Sometimes I have elected to ignore His voice speaking to me, and others I have yearned to hear it.

But there are few events in a persons life that crystalize their faith as adoption does. It tears down the walls of denominationalism, it removes the barriers erected by organized religion. It strips it all down to the most basic elements of a belief that there is a child somewhere waiting for us, and it is our job to find them and bring them home. Period.

I often have found over the years that the adoptive parents who struggle the most with the pre-adoption phase are the ones who can't seem to grasp the concept that they are not in control and that they should let go of everything and just...well...let it be. They fret and stew over how many children a particular agency has available, they want guarantees that the specific kind of child they are looking for, perhaps a perfect caucasian infant girl with no negative medical history, will be available at the time their paperwork is completed. They want to have the power to "order" a child like they "order" a hamburger. Consequently, their lack of faith that theirchild will find them leads them down a frustrating path of discouragement and dispair over the process. They often have no peace about it all, and a time in their life when there are so many other things to worry about becomes that much more difficult.

On the flip side there are others who believe with all their hearts that they mustrelinquish all control so that their God can do His/Her work and find them their child. They take to heart the AA mantra "Let go and let God". They are willing to walk blindly with faith into the deep and often murky seas of adoption, and sometimes this too causes confusion as it is almost directionless, and often reminds me quite contrarily of the 60's hippie perspective of "It's all good". Sometimes these families who have the very best of intentions end up dismayed and shocked that their God would allow them to bring home a child who has issues far beyond what they find they can handle, because they maintained the attitude that God would take care of it all and He wouldn't let them down, in spite of the fact that resources were available to help them make a better informed decision, to help them ascertain if they really were going to be able to "love" a child through his or her issues.

I know that there are many others that don't fall anywhere on the spectrum described, and I also realize I am generalizing for the sake of this post. But I think you get my drift.

I think that I fall somewhere in the middle of the two. Each of our adoptions has slowly brought me closer and closer to understanding what it means to really turn something over to God. I am, by nature, a total control freak. I am a typical Virgo who thinks I know everything and doesn't understand why others don't see things the way I do. I am also brutally honest about my own shortcomings and failings, and I am astute enough to recognize that the traits surrounding control and understanding can be blessings or curses, depending upon the circumstances.

With each of our adoptions I felt a deep need to know as much as I could possibly know, to do literally thousands of hours of research to be well prepared. I knew there were things I couldn't control, but I could at least know how to handle them or recognize them if they arose. It was this research that allowed me to recognize Josh's Reactive Attachment Disorder symptoms at such a young age, and it was my controlling nature which pushed me to press on in finding counseling and sticking with him when the going was at it's worst.

But it is the faith part where I have really grown, where my experiences of God's divine plan have become most evident and can not be denied, even if I were to try. For some reason, and this I can not explain, I have innately understood that there were particular children that were mine, although they were not born to me, and they would come to me eventually. Each time we have adopted we have purposely kept the field wide open in terms of what children we would be willing to consider, much to the chagrin of our various Social Workers who have tried to get us to narrow things down a bit for our homestudies. When referral time came along, we have always made it clear that we will consider any child, although with Josh we did start with the plan that we would like a Kazakh boy, but we accepted info on children of several different ages and genders and quite seriously considered them all. Thankfully, 2 of our three adoptions ended with us accepting the referral of children who were quite the opposite of what we initially thought we would bring home.

Each time, I have had to remind myself over and over during that difficult referral phase, that I didn't have to stress over it, that I didn't need to worry if our agency had 1 or 50 kids available. If we had held up our part of the bargain and carefully and prayerfully selected the right agency, then our child would be there. But I knew we could not limit ourselves in any way, as I did not want to decline a child because they didn't fit my narrow perameters of what I thought was best, only to eventually realize that forcing my own will on the situation caused me to miss out on a very special child that was the one who was really meant to be mine.

This goes so completely against my grain, that it was a real life lesson to learn. I also have learned to leave no stone unturned in my quest. I had to have faith that God put certain things in front of me to lead me to where I needed to be. Matthew came to us by inquiring about a posting someone made on an adoption chat group about a sibling group, and this led us to our agency, which led us to Kazakhstan (not in the intial plan at all) which led us to Matthew. "T" is coming to us because of following up on a phone call about a new program which was unknown to us and was not in our original plan either. Josh came to us with faith and patience that of the 8 referrals we had received, none of them were him....and I can't explain what we were looking for or why it didn't feel right other than God was whispering to hold on, that He had a child waiting for us...and I saw his picture on the photolisting on the day we were going to make the decision and a mere few minutes after his photo went live on the internet...and I understood then why we hadn't yet found him. He was being held for us until we were ready.

This adoption has put my faith into practice in ways I never would have expected. I never in a million years would have imagined accepting the referral of an 8 year old special needs child based solely upon a photo and a gut feeling. We have been fortunate enough to learn a bit about our new son-to-be's personality from others who have met him, but honestly I think my God yelled (for some reason, He does that to me...He tends not to whisper much in my ear but to yell in my face, could it be that I am too hard headed to listen otherwise? hahahaha!) at me the very first moment I saw the blurry photo after opening the email attachment. I knew it, I just knew that I was looking into the smiley eyes of my son...who was supposed to be my younger aged daughter! This third time around I feel less of a need to know everything, less of a need to have "proof" that this is the right child or to control everything.

And this time around is different in a way I am certain I can not explain. It almost has a dreamlike quality to the experience, like I am so absolutely only along for the ride and am a minor player in a mini-miracle. God has consistently sent us sign after sign after sign in such a way that I can't possibly be misinterpreting His will. It is as if He knows that others think we are nuts and He is reinforcing for us over and over that others do not know what He knows. There is total, complete peace in my mind over this adoption. I guess, to put it simply, I have Faith.

Does that sound naive? Probably. Note that I have not said that I have faith this will be easy, quite the opposite is true. I am anticipating many struggles that I have already gone into in depth elsewhere in the blog. But I have Faith that whatever we face is what we are supposed to face, and that "T" has been ours long before we knew it.

Faith is a funny thing, and it is often seen by those who don't have enough of it to be a cop out. For me Faith is truly the best gift I could be given, and it is not a stagnant thing but it grows and morphs each day as I mature and see more clearly through the layers of my life. Faith leads me places I never imagined going.

Faith = hope + confidence

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Kyrgyzstan Blog - Abortion

I have just added a link on my links section (see sidebar on right) for a Kyrgyzstan News Blog, which Dominick found and I think is very interesting. There is an article written on January 13, 2007 on abortion in Kyrgyzstan, which is very informative and shows this to be a controversial issue in that country as well as here in America. Sadly, the article states that the average is 1.5 abortions per woman in Kyrgyzstan. I wonder what the statistics are for America?

I have my own thoughts on abortion, which I don't want to go into at this moment here on the blog. But I want to say that I am very, very grateful to the 3 women who elected not to abort their children...those children who became or are about to become my sons. They had a choice, and from the sounds of it they took what sounds like an extraordinary path in their country by deciding to give life to their children. What if they had made a different choice? What would the world be missing out on if "T", Matthew and Joshua had never been born?

And what would Dominick and I be missing out on?

I am so very thankful I haven't had to find out.

King of Legos

I don't know if you knew this, but we live with the King of Legos. Here is a photo of Matthew proudly showing off his just finished project, a Lego 787 Jet. He spent hours on this and did it all by himself.

ADDITIONAL: I have been asked in emails 3 different times more about "The King's" project, so here is the info. It was a Lego kit with 1197 pieces and was rated for ages 10-15...and Matthew is 7 :-) Yes, he is an architect or engineer in the making, as my friend Ashley said! He has been doing puzzles since he was very young, and in fact was tremendously entertained with 250 piece jigsaw puzzles when he was 4 and we traveled to get kept him busy every night in our little apartment and we bought 3 of them for $1.50 each over in Kazakhstan. He has used K'Nex sets to build without plans the Empire State Building and the White House as well. No, he is not a genius and is a normal kid, but he does seem to be gifted in this area and keeping him challenged is...well...a challenge!

Beginning to Prepare

I am spending the evening pouring over photographs, trying to determine which ones best depict our life. We have been told by our agency that we may send a photo album over to be given to "T" a few weeks before we travel, so I am beginning to work on it. This is proving harder than I first thought. I keep trying to put myself in his small shoes, imagining what it would be like to have someone sit down with me and tell me that my life is totally going to change, that I am moving to a new place far, far away, and then be handed a book with photos of the people who I am being told are my new family. It must be an almost surreal experience for a child, one which the enormity might not be easily grasped. I wonder what he will think as he thumbs through the pages seeing our faces and his new home. What curiousity he will likely feel! I also wonder if for him it will be similar to what we experienced the first time we saw his little face staring back at us from a computer screen. Will he stare at each face trying to learn what he can from a mere photo? Will he try and picture himself in our home? What will he feel about it all...fear, anxiousness, excitement? Will he see kindness in the faces staring back at him? Even with a photo album there will be so many other blanks to fill in, so much that he will not know about us, so many unanswered questions.

I have already bought the album and a few things to place on the pages a'la scrapbook style. I am planning on labeling the photos in Russian for him, so he and his caretakers can read it together. That will be a challenge itself,as writing those Cyrillic characters is not easy! No doubt, this will be the most important album I ever make, and I want it to be perfect. I remember taking along a small baby teething album when we adopted Matthew and Josh with pictures of us in it. Josh still carries his around to this day!

Today I also started making flashcards of the Cyrillic alphabet and some Russian phrases I want to know, the important ones like "I love you", "You are so handsome" and most importantly "Do you have to use the toilet?"...hahahaha! I previously taught myself the alphabet when we traveled for Matthew but have since forgotten it so I am relearning it. I found that regardless of whether I truly knew Russian or not, just knowing the alphabet and being able to pronounce the names of stores and streets was helpful, and kept me from feeling completely helpless. I have a CD and small handbook titled "Russian Phrases for Children" which has been an excellent resource for us, and we are beginning to get serious about working with it. It contains phrases specific to adoptive families and is well done. The pocket sized handbook has phrases written in English, Russian and phonetically in English. If we can learn 30 or 40 key phrases we will be in good shape I think. If you are interested, you can find this product at:

So, the preparations begin in earnest now. In some ways it still doesn't feel "real", but I know it will creep up faster than we can ever anticipate so I'd better get going!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Guarded Hearts

This weekend was a challenging one as we learned that the political instability in Kyrgyzstan could cause a slowdown or shutdown of adoptions there. You would think that after adopting internationally twice before I would be immune to this sort of thing. After all, international adoption is fraught with last minute changes, delays, frustrating hoop-jumping. But for some reason, this time it got to me a bit, and I found myself "losing it" at church this weekend. Perhaps it was exhaustion, or simply because this time we have known exactly which little person we are bringing home for months now versus the prior two times when we received our referral a mere few weeks before traveling. We already feel strongly connected to him, and the thought of not bringing him home is heartbreaking.

I am not typically a "weepy" woman, and thus was a little embarassed by this show of emotions. However, sometimes allowing our pain to show outwardly gives others the opportunity to share their love for you. I was blown away by the support and encouragement we received from our many friends. Everything from emails sent to us by young children who are dear to us, to special women calling who had the words to calm my spirit and help me see things realistically, to awkward hugs from teenaged boys who didn't have the words to convey their concern.  New virtual friends used their language talents to scrutinize online Russian news articles to pass on what they could learn about the situation. All of this combined to help reassure me that my feelings were normal and natural, and that there are many people who care about us, and this little boy who is a stranger halfway around the world.

It can be hard to allow others to see us as anything other than strong, capable and "perfect". Sometimes it seems easier to place bars across our heart to protect us from those whose motives are less pure, who desire to see us fall, who rejoice in our failings. We all have had relationships that have caused pain, and it would seem that after experiencing something like that we should hole up and guard our hearts from further disappointment. But what are we missing out on if we do that? Are we turning away the very people who can help us heal those broken hearts? Are we denying others the opportunity to place their arms around us and hold us close? How often do we find ourselves alone and struggling because we are afraid of being seen as weak?

We have some incredible friendships in our lives. The laughter and joy we share with them makes us feel safe and secure enough to bend those bars guarding our hearts and let our emotions escape...for we know that they are there to comfort us, to help us see things in a different light. We have friends who won't judge us if we are having a bad day, who don't expect us to be perfect or to only meet their needs. We have friends who help us daily as we walk through life doing the best we can, sometimes succeeding...sometimes failing.

I am so glad that my heart is not too well guarded. I am glad that I have the courage to occasionally let go, in spite of the embarrassment. I am glad that my heart remains open regardless of past hurts and personal insecurities. It is a risk to face possible rejection in the eye and stare it down. Hearts that are guarded may be better protected, that is true, and they may experience far less loss and sadness...but guaranteed they also miss out on much more joy and love.

And so, in spite of the risk of future pain, we continue boldly on, counting on God's goodness to carry us through. He has a plan, and it is far better than any we could create. He has made it clear that "T" is ours, and I have no doubt He will be faithful to that.